Prone to Wander (Genesis 45:16-46:31)

Prone to Wander (Genesis 45:16-46:31)

wandering-heartOpen your bibles to Genesis 45. We will pick up right where we left off last week in 45:16. We have been in this section of Genesis that focuses our attention on repentance, revelation, and reconciliation. We spent several weeks looking at the subject of repentance, seeing that culminate in Judah’s offer to substitute himself for his brother Benjamin. Then last week we looked at the effect of Joseph’s revelation of himself to his brothers. They were convicted, comforted, and called.

Now, the narrative brings our attention back to Jacob, as we come to episode that climaxes in the scene of reconciliation between Jacob and Joseph. When Jacob is not the subject of the narrative Joseph is. And we can see that his focus is upon his father.

Before we read this passage let us look to the Lord in prayer for his help in understanding it.

Genesis 45:16-46:4

16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ 19 And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”

21 The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22 To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”

25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

46 So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

This is the Word of the LORD.

As I have said, Jacob is the central character in this passage. He is the one on Joseph’s mind back in (45:3). Even when Joseph is the subject, it revolves around how he is preparing to meet his father. He has no need to test his father like he did his brothers. He isn’t at all reluctant to see him. In fact, by the end of the episode we see him making haste to greet Jacob (46:29).

God is most clearly seen as sovereignly working His will in His revelation to Jacob at Beersheba. He gives Jacob the confidence he needs to move forward, leaving the Promised Land and entering Egypt. This is the third time God encounters Jacob in a life-changing way:

  1. Bethel – Fleeing Esau
  2. Jabbok – Meeting Esau
  3. Beersheba – Reuniting with Joseph

In the first two instances Jacob feared his own life was in jeopardy. In this last instance he fears that his hopes of reconciling with Joseph will not be fulfilled. In each case, God restores Jacob and gives him assurance to move forward.

When we realize Jacob’s tendencies toward pessimism, distrust, and self-pity, we find this to be a tremendously encouraging episode. We see ourselves in Jacob and learn that: We are prone to wander, but God is faithful to guide us back to Himself.

First, we will look at The Preparation for Jacob (45:16-28). Second, we’ll see The Migration of Jacob (46:1-27). And third, we will note The Reconciliation to Jacob (46:28-30).

Preparation for Jacob (45:16-28) 

Once the brothers showed true repentance, Pharaoh and Joseph become overflowing with generosity. Pharaoh might have felt offended or threatened by their presence, but instead he is happy for Joseph. Pharaoh sends carts loaded with gifts to bring Jacob and his family back to Egypt. This would be the equivalent of sending the president’s entourage in black SUVs. No one else was moving about in chariots. They walked and loaded their belongings on camels and donkeys. Every need is provided for to encourage migration.

Joseph’s gifts to his brothers are intended to convince Jacob of the message. One of the more striking gifts is the garments he sent with them. Likely, these were ornate Egyptian garments that royalty would wear. The brothers who had stripped Joseph of his precious coat are the recipients of new clothes from the hand of their brother.

Joseph’s warning not to quarrel was another reminder that they needed to put the past behind them. His command was timely and needed. It would appear from their repentance that they have been converted, but they were still sinners. Wouldn’t it be the perfect opportunity to begin blaming one another as they face the prospect of convincing their father and explaining everything.

“How can it be that Joseph is alive?”


We can understand why Jacob is somewhere between hope and fear at this point. He is not sure he can trust his sons yet.

Jacob was prone to pessimism. He would often, immediately assume the worst in any circumstance. Listen to what James Boice says about Jacob:

“He was a believer, at least after God had mastered him in the wrestling match at Jabbok. But he was always up and down. At times he was strong in faith, giving glory to God. At other times he was weak and self-pitying, as when he complained, ‘Everything is against me!’ (Gen. 42:36). It is a dull Christian who cannot see his or her own vacillating faith in Jacob’s inconsistencies.”

Jacob’s tendencies toward pessimism are met with the generosity of a loving God who provides for all of his needs through the gifts of Pharaoh and Joseph. His reaction transforms from unbelief to being convinced, because he heard Joseph’s message and saw the display of gifts. From there he is revived. His earlier declaration that he would carry his sorrow to the grave is now replaced by hope of a joyful death.

Many of us are a lot like Jacob. We are often skeptical when it comes to trusting other people. We tend to wait for evidences that support and affirm their words. Jacob’s natural tendencies to be pessimistic and distrusting make sense to people like us.

I love how God is not put off by this, as if God expected him to be more like Joseph. He doesn’t chastise him, instead he provides for his every need.

Now that Jacob is convinced, he begins the journey down to Egypt.

Migration of Jacob (46:1-27) 

Beersheba is a significant location. It is where Jacob lived with his family before fleeing Esau (28:10). Abraham called on the Lord and planted a tamarisk tree there (21:33). Isaac also went there and heard from the Lord (26:23-25). This location marks the southernmost boundary of the Promised Land and Jacob had never been beyond it. Jacob wants to worship God here, making it clear that his departure from Canaan is not a departure from God.

This serves as the only theophany in 37:2-50:26. God gives Jacob confidence by giving him:

  1. A reminder of His past faithfulness.
  2. A command for present obedience.
  3. A promise of future blessing.
  4. A commitment of His presence.
    • Going down.
    • Bringing up.
  5. A statement concerning Joseph.
    • Your son will be with you at your death.

Jacob’s tendencies toward distrust are met with the special revelation of God reminding him of all he has promised. And with that, he is now ready to make the journey. Read with me 46:5-7:

5 Then Jacob set out from Beersheba. The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 They also took their livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, 7 his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters. All his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.

The lengthy genealogy follows God’s reminder that He would make them “into a great nation.” The total number of persons is 70. The genealogy serves as a testimony of the growth of the nation. From Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to 12 sons and now 70! We haven’t come across most of these names in the narrative, but God is using them all to build the nation of Israel.

By Exodus 1, 430 years later, these 70 will become no less than 2 Million! This is remarkable, but not unbelievable growth. I’m not the most reliable with math, but I believe if every child were to average bearing 2.5 children of their own, they would have achieved this number. And that takes into account the death of grandparents.

Each time God encounters Jacob, he is removing fear and doubt. He is giving him hope and reassurance of His presence. God strengthens Jacob’s faith from start to finish. Left to himself, he would have departed God a long time ago. John MacArthur has said, “If we could lose our salvation, we would.”

One of the most sobering quotes that frequently reminds me of my need for grace is from Octavius Winslow. He writes,

“If there is one consideration more humbling than another to a spiritually-minded believer, it is that, after all God has done for him – after all the rich displays of his grace…there should still exist in the heart a principle, the tendency of which is to secret, perpetual, and alarming departure from God.”

We must meditate on this reality. Although we are prone to fear, doubt, and wander, God delights to provide comfort, strength, and guidance. Like Jacob, we are prone to wander, but God is faithful to guide us back to Himself.

Now that Jacob has been convinced by the display of generosity and the revelation of God, we come to the climax of the text…

Reconciliation to Jacob (46:28-30) 

Read with me 46:28-30:

28 He had sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to show the way before him in Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen. 29 Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. 30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.”

Did you notice how Joseph prepared his own chariot to meet Jacob. It speaks to the haste at which he departed. Although this is a short description, we know it was a tender and long-lasting moment (“wept on his neck a good while”). Again, we are reminded of Joseph’s tender affection for his family. Egypt had not hardened him at all.

This scene is very similar to the scene we considered last week where Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. There is a genuine appreciation for one another displayed through intimacy, tears, and rejoicing. They are experiencing real community as they embrace one another. I doubt there was much else regarding the scene for Moses to record. They probably didn’t speak much. They just soaked in the moment and enjoyed one another’s presence.

Jacob’s tendencies toward self-pity and worry are met with the affection of a loving God who cares for and him, and gives him peace in his old age, through the affection of Joseph.

Romans 5:8-11 points to the true reconciliation all of us seek.

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Reconciliation with God is through Jesus Christ. It is by faith in Him that we receive peace with God.

Like Jacob, we are prone to fear, we have a hard time enjoying peace, but God remains the same today as He always has been. In the same way that he blessed Jacob, he promises to bless us. Hear God’s promises to you:

  1. Past Faithfulness: 2 Tim. 2:11-13 “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”
  2. Present Obedience: 2 Tim. 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”; 1 Jn. 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
  3. Promise of Future Blessing: Rev. 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
  4. Commitment of Presence: Matt. 28:20b “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
  5. Concerning Death: 1 Cor. 15:54-55 “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”

The Lord responds to our condition with grace upon grace.



We hate to admit our negative tendencies, but I know many of us can relate to the characteristics of Jacob. Maybe you have a hard time seeing the silver lining. Or maybe you tend to be doubtful and distrusting when it comes to the goodness of God. You are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now that you have received His mercy, you are waiting to receive His wrath. Or maybe you struggle with feelings of self-pity. Everyone and everything seems to be against you all the time.

When we see the way in which God met Jacob where he was and brought him to where he needed to be, we are encouraged and strengthened in our own walk with the Lord. God used the generosity of Pharaoh and Joseph to convince him to go down to Egypt. Then he revealed Himself to Jacob in a night vision giving him the assurance he sought. And finally, God used the affection of Joseph to give him the peace he desired at death.

We see the generosity, revelation, and affection of God most clearly displayed in the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ. Each one of these characteristics are mere shadows pointing to our Savior. In giving us His Son, God the Father held absolutely nothing back. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). “[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3a). Until Jesus reveals himself to us we cannot know peace with God. And there is no greater love than the sacrificial love of Christ “who laid down His life for us” (1 Jn. 3:16a).

We are prone to wander, but God is faithful to guide us back to Himself. Do you believe that?